This past Wednesday, April 24th, ArtWatch was proud to present the fourth annual James Beck Memorial Lecture. Each year ArtWatch holds this event to commemorate the scholarly career and the principled stand of its founder, Professor James Beck. The lectures, organized by Michael Daley, the director of ArtWatch UK, provide a platform for distinguished art world speakers in our New York and London campaigning centers.
Those who were able to attend heard both the lecture by David Freedberg, entitled “Morality and Movement in Renaissance Art” and the speech by Don Reynolds, delivered upon receipt of the 2012 Frank Mason Prize.
Michael Daley of ArtWatch UK, writes of the connection between Beck and the teatro at the Italian Academy: “It was in this hall on Sept 19th 2007 that Columbia University Art History Department conducted a memorial service in honour of Professor James Beck, who had died on May 26th that year,” and goes on to say that, “We in ArtWatch International decided that there were two ways of best honouring his memory and his campaigning. The first was quite simply by continuing to campaign as an organisation against those who (for whatever motives) injure art. . . The second step that we took to honor James Beck was the inauguration of these annual lectures by scholars of distinction on topics of their choice in recognition of his own contributions.”
Within this tradition, David Freedberg, Pierre Matisse Professor of the History of Art in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, and Director of The Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, delivered a compelling lecture on the topic of movement in Renaissance art – its implications for both art and cultural historians cannot be overstated. His talk was extremely rich in analytical and contextual insights. As one audience member put it: “Freedberg didn’t play it down for anyone. Everyone was treated as though they were his scholarly equals.” In this way, we were provided with a rare experience, one that left us with much to process and consider in the days to come.
The Frank Mason Prize, awarded at the beginning of the evening, was also a momentous occasion. Of Frank Mason, Jim Beck’s esteemed colleague, Michael Daley states that he had “led marches of protesting students and artists from the New York Art Students League to the Metropolitan Museum of Art against the picture restorations therein. Frank had helped found a small international organisation to fight on behalf of the world’s artistic patrimony and was one the first campaigners against the Sistine Chapel restorations which began in 1980. When Frank died on June 16, 2009, ArtWatch International decided to honour his formative role in our campaigns with a modest annual prize to others who were making a contribution to protecting art.”
Donald Martin Reynolds, PhD, to whom we awarded the 2012 prize for his groundbreaking 1984 book “The architecture of New York City” and for his symposium series in honor of the renowned art historian Rudolf Wittkower, now in its 23rd year, delivered what was certainly one of the most eloquent, heartfelt speeches in honor of James Beck. It is hard to imagine a more kind and sincere tribute to the memory of our late founder.
We also wanted to pass along our appreciation for the wonderful staff of the Italian Academy for their guidance and assistance in the weeks prior to the event and on the night of. We hope to have future opportunities to collaborate with this highly professional and dedicated institution.
If you were unable to attend, or if you desire to have a record of the evening, we will be publishing transcripts of the talks in our next journal publication, and we hope to also have a recording of the lecture available for our website.
Lastly, ArtWatch International extends its sincere gratitude to our speakers and guests for making this one of our most successful events in recent years. We hope to see you again soon.